The Carters & The Allure of Art
Beyoncé and Jay-Z are no strangers to spectacular album drops. Over the course of two years, while translating their marital affairs into public presentations, they have raised the bar for each other, beginning with Mrs. Carter’s Grammy nominated album Lemonade and dramatic (dare we say, iconic) film and continuing with Mr. Carter’s Grammy nominated 4:44 and eclectic visual accompaniments.
They proclaimed their feelings through imagery and poetry alike, creating albums that spoke for themselves and, in the end, to each other.
Now, in 2018, they have ended up here, together, raising the bar not for each other but for the rest of the music community.
In true Carter fashion, EVERYTHING IS LOVE dropped on Sunday, a surprise nine-song culmination of their journey. While the album pulls on their strengths and the best of their sonic landscapes, the video for the album’s second track, “Apeshit,” solidifies their visions and abilities as the reigning artists of our age.
The Carters are more than the music foundations that lay under their kingdoms; they are creators who transcend the boundaries of artistic mediums to curate the most elegant pairings of sonic, visual, and tangible elements. “Apeshit” is their newest exhibit open for viewing, and it is simply stunning.
The video’s allure begins in its location choice, the Louvre, providing the frame for which the Carters place their own canvas. On marble floors and under the gold gilded ceilings stand some of the most important art pieces in European history including the Mona Lisa, “The Winged Victory of Samothrace,” and “Raft of the Medusa.” The video utilizes the artwork as a means of positioning and transitioning, providing depth to the film through the use of visual art as a setting for the Carters’ story to play out in. In a way, the artwork presents a context for this couple’s story; without it, the imagery does not work.
In this video, life is designed to mimic art. The Carters use fashion strategically to paint themselves as the regal, real life versions of the art which they stand before. Fabrics match backgrounds perfectly, merging the two-dimensional works with the three-dimensional world. The couple is draped in white in front of “The Winged Victory” while Mrs. Carter dons an earthy set while the “Great Sphinx of Tanis” watches from behind. It truly becomes a game of comparison between the humans and frozen bodies behind them.
During transitions, dancers pose in reimagined recreations. Two women sit beneath "Portrait of Madame Récamier,” connected by a headwrap in the same stark white that adorns the painted lady (a styling that later echoes the “Portrait of a Black Woman”).
Life is also positioned to become art. Still shots, like the one of black men kneeling outside the museum, bring attention to images that do not hang on the walls of the Louvre but hang in the minds of Americans. Many have equated both these artistic recreations and still-life images to the video’s goal to reframe a predominantly white art world with black bodies while reflecting the racial experiences of the modern age.
While the Carters truly seek (and achieve) visibility in this space, they ultimately remind you that they and their culture are not flat, static art pieces to be hung on a wall and admired.
For the Carters do exist beyond a two-dimensional world, one that is incredibly dynamic. The video’s most poignant imagery is introduced through movement. Dancers bring waves to the ivory stairs and synchronized body rolls under the "The Coronation of Napoleon," evoking a sense of cultural unity in both joy and struggle. Even subtle movements like Bey leaning closer into her husband’s shoulder act as symbols of the couple’s own renewed closeness and affection.
The couple’s final move distinguishes them even further as they turn to face the Mona Lisa. They are no longer a display on “Apeshit”’s walls for to you look at; they are simply observers and admirers of art like we’ve been.
Back away from “Apeshit” and you will see portraits of personal and political, landscapes of kingdoms and their dynasties, and statues of heroes and their brewing revolutions.
The Carters may not be art, but they are truly the great artists of our era. And “Apeshit” is their best exhibit to study, emulate, and admire.